National Comprehensive Cancer Network Announces Leaders for Forum on Equity

National Comprehensive Cancer Network's new Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Directors Forum is working together to improve diversity of clinical staff.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network Announces Leaders for Forum on Equity

BLACK ENTERPRISE EditorsJanuary 18, 2023January 18th, 20238 0 (Image) Terrance Mayes, PhD, of Stanford Cancer Institute, and Loretta Erhunmwunsee, MD, FACS, of City of Hope National Medical Center were named Chair and Vice-Chair of the NCCN DEI Director Forum. According to a press release, they join over 20 experts in diversity, equity and inclusion in healthcare from the leading academic cancer centers in the United States, which make up NCCN.

"There are substantial disparities in the outcomes of cancer across races and ethnicities; this is unacceptable, and must be addressed urgently. Robert W. Carlson MD, Chief Executive Officer of NCCN, stated that increasing diversity among cancer care providers is a necessary step towards improving equity and quality in care. We have a long way yet to go. The people who do this important work are often over-burdened and underfunded. We are happy to be able use NCCN's infrastructure to alleviate some of that burden. Doctors Erhunmwunsee and Mayes are outstanding leaders with a clear vision of the future. It is an honor to have them as part of the forum that propels academic centers to improve the lives of all those with cancer. Recent research has shown that the cancer mortality rate for Black men is 19% higher than for White men in America, and that it's 12% higher among Black women than for White women. These disparities can be caused by many factors, including structural and interpersonal racism as well as social determinants. Clinical guidelines are one way to reduce the imbalance in outcomes, according to research. Having diverse representation among health care providers--increasing trust and reducing opportunity for bias--is another.

Ethnic and racial minorities are underrepresented in oncology, particularly in leadership roles. Black Americans make up 12.7% of the U.S., but only 5% are active doctors. Hispanics make up 18.1% of the total population, and just 5.8% for doctors. It is 3.5% and 3.8% for people in leadership positions. In order to continue to be eligible for federal funding and designation, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), has required that all centers develop and implement a plan to increase diversity among faculty and staff. The NCCN DEI Directors Forum is collaborating to support the development of these important plans and other initiatives to increase equity in cancer care.

Dr. Mayes stated, "It is an honor to be the inaugural chair for the NCCN DEI Directors Forum during such a pivotal moment in our nation." "The role of structural discrimination in the United States' health care system has been brought into sharper focus over the past few years. We as a health care community have an obligation to take action. I look forward to working alongside the NCCN DEI Directors Forum members to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels in cancer care. Dr. Erhunmwunsee said that cancer centers need to identify and remove structural barriers and practices that hinder workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to attain cancer health equity. Center directors and top leaders must prioritize initiatives that promote DEI. Otherwise, historically marginalized groups will be left behind. As we work together to develop and implement policies and practices that promote DEI at the national level, I am looking forward to working with this forum of DEI leaders.

The NCCN DEI Directors Forum is a forum for sharing challenges and best practices to advance DEI initiatives in a timely manner. This group will meet several times per year, both online and in person, to make recommendations for the development and implementation of new and improved policies and practices that support DEI efforts. Dr. Carlson stated that NCCN's work is rooted in equity in cancer outcomes. This means that every patient receives the most recent evidence-based consensus recommendations. "Our continued work with the NCCN DEI Directors Forum, will allow us to continue to hold ourselves responsible and ensure that we move in the right direction.

In 2020, NCCN convened a joint working group with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network ACS CAN and the National Minority Quality Forum NMQF. This created a Health Equity Report Card HERC (Health Equity Report Card)--a series 17 concrete, measurable recommendations to decrease disparities in cancer care. The feasibility of implementing HERC to improve the quality and equity in care across the country is being evaluated by a pilot project. This project will be highlighted as part of the 2023 World Cancer Day campaign 'Close The Care Gap' on February 4. To learn more, visit